Military Veterans Department tops DoD debtors’ list

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The lack of pertinent information in presentations to Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) saw questions posed to the acting Secretary for Defence (SecDef).

Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais was not satisfied with two presentations to April JSCD meetings and asked for clarity on SA National Defence Force (SANDF) continental deployments to United Nations (UN) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) peacekeeping missions.

On Operation Mistral, the South African contribution to MONUSCO, the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (RDC), Dr Thobekile Gamede signing herself off as acting Secretary for Defence, responded by writing the deployment is “fully funded”. She wrote that National Treasury (NT) appropriated R1 035 842 266 in the 2023/24 financial year budget for this.

UN reimbursements, according to her response, assist in “maintaining platforms and equipment deployed”.

The SANDF deployment in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province as part of the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) is not in the same situation. Marais’ questioning its funding status was confirmed by the acting SecDef. She informed him the projected cost of Operation Vikela is R984 million with a National Treasury appropriation of R850 million for the current financial year. This leaves a shortfall more than R134 million.

Replying to what Gamede termed “ageing of debts” to the Department of Defence (DoD) for services rendered, Marais was informed “generally payments are received from most entities, except National Department of Public Works [and Infrastructure] and National Treasury (NT)”. She further told her questioner “there are constant interactions with these entities to ensure there are no reasons to write off these debts due to prescriptions”.

Seven “entities” are listed in Gamede’s reply with a cumulative outstanding amount of R317 965 669.36.

By far the biggest debtor is the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) with a total in excess of R195 million. This comes from medical, sustenance and transport (S&T) and salaries for secondments to the second major component of Thandi Modise’s ministry.

Public Works and Infrastructure (PWI), now under the stewardship of Sihle Zikalala following the departure of Patricia de Lille to tourism, owes the DoD over R91 million with the debt going back three years.

Rural development is listed as another debtor, owing R25 million plus. The SANDF supplies accommodation, food and instructors for the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) headed by Minister Thoko Didiza.

NT owes the DoD R6 million plus with the debt accumulated over three years, presumably payment made by the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU) and SADC for continental deployments of equipment and personnel.